Nvidia GTX 480 Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
Price: $ 499 Est.
» Discuss this article (56)
Ever since the introduction of the "Fermi" architecture back in November at NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference the question has been, can it dethrone the HD 5000 series that ATI dropped on the world just a scant week earlier, bringing along game changing performance and the first DirectX 11 cards to market? ATI brought the heat and put NVIDIA on the ropes as its top single GPU card, the GTX 285, took a beating. Ever since the Fermi name was released there have been leaks and rumors that really threw up a smoke screen to cover up what was really under the hood. NVIDIA released little tidbits here and there to show progress as everyone waited for a firm release date. Just after CES we had an opportunity to sit in on an in depth look at the new architecture and see what it was really capable of. I came away from this eagerly waiting for the day I could lay hands on the first of the GF 100 cards, now known as the GTX 480, to put it through the ringer and see if the canned tests we looked at were all she had or if there truly was more under the hood. Well, that day is today, right here, right now! Let's jump into a quick look at this sample from nVidia and see what happens!
Without all the packaging and bundle we can jump right into the GTX 480 and see just what it's all about. This is an NVIDIA reference card and should represent what the bulk of the GTX 480 initial offerings will look like with, of course, the main differences being the manufacturer graphics and stickers affixed to the cards. This beast measures a full 10.5 inches long and features a large heatpipe based cooling solution to cool the large die containing three billion transistors while also working to keep the 1536MB of memory cool as well. This card is PCI-E 2.0 compliant and is NVIDIA's long awaited response to the HD 5870. Key features include a total of three billion transistors used in 480 CUDA Cores, more than double the GT 200 predecessors, but still 32 short of the original 512 we were all shown, 60 texture units, 48 ROPs, and 15 streaming multiprocessors on four GPU clusters. There is a total of 1536MB of GDDR5 memory running through a 384-bit bus that combine to deliver higher memory bandwidth.
For connectivity you get a pair of Dual Link DVI connections and a mini HDMI port capable of outputting HD sound. The power connections required for the GTX 480 include both a single 6-pin and a single 8-pin PCI-E power connection. This card is SLI capable with the use of an SLI bridge connection. SLI scaling has been said to be in the 80+ percentage range with two cards but add in a third and scaling should be quite impressive.
The cooling system for the GTX 480 consists of a heatpipe based system connected to a fin array under the metal cover that helps shed additional heat. The four heatpipes sit directly on top of the GTX 480's core so there is no baseplate to create a barrier to dissapating the thermal load that should be somewhere in the range of the board max TDP of 250 watts. Air blows through the housing and exhausts the heat outside the case.
The GTX 480 is built upon the GF 100 Fermi architecture and carries clock speeds of 1401MHz on the shader cores, 700MHz on the core and 924MHz on the GDDR5 memory. The 1536MB of frame buffer memory runs through a 384-bit bus and delivers 177.4 GB/s of memory bandwidth. The GPU consists of four GPU clusters that house the 480 CUDA cores, 60 Texture units, 15 streaming multiprocessors and 48 ROPs. For memory, NVIDIA has chosen to use modules from Samsung.
Waiting to see what the GTX 480 is capable of is no longer a mystery, so let's see just what kind of performance it can deliver and see if the three billion transistor beast has the chops to knock the HD 5870 down a peg or two.